Mandate relief … at last?

Wednesday morning, Rep. Ryan Aument met with members of the Lancaster Chamber’s education advisory group to discuss legislation he is working on that would allow school districts to furlough teachers due to economic reasons. The bill would give school districts a reprieve from one “unfunded mandate,” but it is not a slam dunk.

Why we will finish school June 6

Our school board last night set commencement for June 5 and the last day of school for June 6. That may be a bit earlier than parents who followed our snow make-up schedule were expecting. The mechanics have to do with two important factors: the number of weather closings for the 2013-2014 school year and the unique demand for staff development time.

A note on blog comments

They are welcome! But be patient. Let me explain.

My recent post comparing what additional educational opportunities we could provide CV students for the cost of cyber charter school tuition has generated three thoughtful responses. The commenters do not fully agree with me, but I am happy to have multiple perspectives on this blog.

Unfortunately, like any site these days, we also get hit with regular spam. That is why we filter comments, and sometimes it takes a day or two until we can approve them for posting. Just because your comment does not appear at first does not mean we are trying to censor you!

Of course, we reserve the right to delete comments that are vulgar or otherwise inappropriate, but that is low on my list of worries in our community. Thanks again for the dialog. I look forward to seeing many perspectives on future topics!

What could you buy with $700k?

Last week I urged lawmakers to focus on first principles as they look to update Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law. Here is a thought exercise to clarify my point.

The original charter law aimed to improve pupil learning by increasing learning opportunities. That is why local school boards were empowered to approve or deny charter school applications based on an evaluation of what the proposal offers to students that the district was not already providing.

The problem today is the cost of cyber charter schools, which are approved by the department of education, not local school boards. At CV, we are paying some $700,000 in cyber charter school tuition, and we already offer online and blended options in our district. These cyber charter schools are not offering our students anything they cannot get from Conestoga Valley.

These cyber schools are also struggling to improve pupil learning, which we can see in the state’s new School Performance Profiles. Are they increasing learning opportunities? On balance, they may be reducing them.

First principles on charter schools

As state lawmakers again debate changes to Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law, I think it is time for a return to first principles.

Our local senator, Lloyd Smucker, is being recognized for his leadership on the charter school issue, and Sen. Smucker took to the pages of the Sunday News to defend charter reform legislation he introduced.

The senator calls charter schools “one of the true innovations of the past generation,” even as he concedes the original law did not anticipate the rise of cyber charter schools. Yet it is these schools that are costing our local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Snow Daze

MakeUp-DaysI hope you are enjoying this brief “February thaw,” even if forecasters are warning us not to get too comfortable. Still, despite the sun and melting snow, winter weather remains top of mind for so many!